Get Outta Town: 5 small town Alberta shopping road trips

Christmas ornaments for days at Greeland Garden Centre.
Christmas ornaments for days at Greeland Garden Centre.

Do you ever get the urge to drive straight out of town until the mega malls disappear in your rearview and the traffic thins out? I do. Lately I’ve been poking around in the suburbs and small towns near Edmonton for my shopping fix, which has lead to some pretty fruitful mini-road trips. These half day or day-long forays into Edmonton’s neighbouring towns are my lazy version of a weekend getaway. They don’t require booking a hotel or packing a toothbrush – they are easy, fun and a fab opportunity to go shopping at local shops and tasting at local restaurants.

Coming from a small town, I am a huge fan of a quaint downtown and family-owned stores. If you’re like me and love to poke little shops across Alberta, from the historic downtown stores of Fort Saskatchewan to the hip and charming boutiques of Leduc’s Main Street then this is your local-loving shopping primer. And, as a wee bonus, I’m also going to share a tiny handful of my fave Edmonton indie shops that specialize in Canadian and Albertan goods.

rsz_beaumont

Beaumont

Now it’s an agricultural bedroom community for Edmonton. If your small humans are a bit rangy after the drive out, make your first stop Jouer Cafe, for some serious play time in their indoor playgrounds and climbing wall. After the kids are tuckered out and your properly caffeinated shop Canadian fashion houses Adria Mode, Carreli Denim or C’est Moi Bamboo for mom at Virtu Boutique.

St. Albert's Perron Street is a collection of chic stores & bistros.
St. Albert’s Perron Street is a collection of chic stores & bistros.

St. Albert 

Just west of Edmonton, St. Albert was recently voted Canada’s #1 Best Place to Live according to MoneySense in 2014: #NBD. I love St. Albert’s Perron district mainly because of it’s mix of yummo restaurants (Privada and Cerdo Tacos & Tequila) and fun stores (Crimson Quill Gifts or The Bookstore on Perron). Pro-tip: if you want to make your derrière look like a million dollars then you HAVE TO visit Monjeloco, the designed-in-Canada made in Colombia booty jeans shop of Dragon’s Den fame. My second favourite thing about St. Albert is the Enjoy Centre, where you can attend a craft fair, have lunch, stock up on gardening supplies, health food, take a yoga class and nab some craft beer. Phew! What a day.

Fort Saskatchewan's best brunch according to locals.
Fort Saskatchewan’s best brunch according to locals.
Fort Saskatchewan's Blu Poppie.
Fort Saskatchewan’s Blu Poppie.

Fort Saskatchewan

If I was child free, I’d head to Fort Saskatchewan for a steak and eggs breakfast at the Brant Hotel followed by a wander through downtown and Legacy Park, an old train station. Blu Poppie gifts carries all kinds of lovely tchotchkes like candles, linens and this time of year, Christmas decorations. If you love ceramics, then definitely head to Fort Saskatchewan for their annual Pottery Guild Sale. For the cowpokes in your life – kids included, stop by Lammle’s on your way back to Edmonton for a hug selection of western wear.

Leduc's source for all things board: Rumor Skate & Snow.
Leduc’s source for all things board: Rumor Skate & Snow.

Leduc

For the men on your shopping list (or women for that matter) love snowboarding and skateboarding then a session at Rumor Skate & Snow is a must. With a selection of boarding and skate gear from Canada including: Sitka, RDS, Niche, and Lifetime Collective, Rumor keeps it real by supporting locals jibbers and skate fiends alike. If you need to fuel up for your next stop try The Sushi Factory. I dare you to resist the temptation of their list of 26 specialty rolls. Lastly, if your kids are with you, reward their good behaviour (fingers crossed) with some toys and educational gear from Playing for Keeps.

Gobble some of Edmonton's best cookies at Confetti Sweets.
Gobble some of Alberta’s best cookies at Confetti Sweets.

Sherwood Park 

Baby mamas unite! Baby & Beyond by Millennium Centre is a great one stop shop for everything from onesies to organic bum salve to breast pumps. For sugary stocking stuffers, head to Confetti Sweets. My favourites are the coconut or chocolate chunk cookies. If you need Christmas gear – from trees, to decorations to garlands to cards – then visit Greenland Garden Centre. There’s enough glitter at Greenland to give the Edmonton Pride Parade a run for it’s money. After your day of poking around Sherwood Park, grab a late mini fondue lunch paired with an Alleykat Scona Gold from Greenlands in-greenhouse bistro Branches. It’s like dining on a patio in the tropics, without the expensive airfare.

The AGA gift shop.
The AGA gift shop.

Edmonton

Did you know that the Art Gallery of Alberta has one of the city’s best little gift shops packed with all kinds of made-in-YEG goodness? You can grab house goods from Oliver Apt, Veekee Workshop textiles and Jason Blower art prints (or a Edmonton colouring book for the littles). Habitat Etc downtown carries a menagerie of artisan wares from Canada and the USA – from bar tending bitters to stationary to beard oil. Deep in south Edmonton is The Refinery , a women’s and children’s specializes in on-trend fashion and bambino goodies like House of Hale kid’s teepee forts. If you like your shopping paired with strong coffee and addictive snacks, then you’ll love the general store at Little Brick in Riverdale. I’m currently coveting the Forest & Waves blankets, Keep Cups and Fiasco Gelato artisanal marshmallows. My secret Santa has his work cut out for him.

Make a plan this holiday season to ditch the mall scene and explore the indie shops  neighbouring communities and Edmonton.  Trust me, you’ll find some unforgettable gifts and have an adventure while getting there.

The Royal Bison features Edmonton-made awesomeness.
The Royal Bison features Edmonton-made awesomeness.

Pssst, it’s also the Grey Cup season of craft fairs right now. Crowd favourites like the Royal Bison, St. Albert Indoor Christmas Market, Silverbells Winter Market and Culture Collective are all happening over the next month. If you want some Edmonton-area craft fair intel head over to my write up on Family Fun Edmonton.

Looking for small town shopping inspiration in Southern Alberta? Check our my travel writer comrade Jody Robbins‘ picks in places like Drumheller and Black Diamond HERE.

Thanks to Travel Alberta for sponsoring this post. All opinions above are my own and this text wasn’t reviewed by anyone but me. 

Which small town shops do you love? Share your tips and locations in the comments below. 

29 thoughts on “Get Outta Town: 5 small town Alberta shopping road trips

  1. Small towns and speciality shops are always more satisfying than shopping malls – so much more original stuff to choose from. And more interesting places to eat in between the shopping too!

    1. I was pleasantly surprised by all the great little bistros and cafes while researching this story. Love that you can find great sushi in farming/oil town.

  2. I love poking through little shops and getting away from the megamalls, thanks for this! Though admittedly I am hanging out for just a visit to Edmonton Mall – I saw it on a travel show once when I would have been like 10 maybe, and I’ve been obsessed with getting there ever since 😀 Back then it was the largest mall in the world I think? Or perhaps North America.

    Anyhow, I actually prefer to shop in smaller quirky indie shops like you’ve listed, as I find you catch more unique treasures here, though the megamall is on my list just as something to experience and fulfill that childhood dream 😀

    1. Don’t get me wrong Megan – West Edmonton Mall is fun in its own right. I’m often looking for any excuse to go on a little road trip and get to know another part of my province, indie shops seem to be the focus these days.

  3. I enjoy shopping at local independent stores as well. It’s great to support community shops and find unique things for loved ones, especially at this time of year!

  4. Fantastic tips Miranda! I’m planning to move to Calgary next year so this will be very helpful once I get to Edmonton to do some exploring. I have a feeling I’ll have to take my partner to Rumor Skate & Snow as well 🙂

  5. I’m all in favour of ditching the malls and supporting the small guy. Most of these small towns I’ve never even heard of – and I certainly had no appreciation of how much they offered the shopper. I think so many of us are looking for unique stuff so a great and very helpful list.

  6. Great post, I think many are turning to small businesses instead of the big box stores these days, which is great. We all need to get back to what matters. Thanks for sharing.

  7. Some great recommendations here. When I lived in Edmonton I never made the effort to shop outside of the city and I wish I did. I think Beaumont would be a great place to get that small town Christmasy vibe.

  8. I’m with you – my pulse quickens when I arrive in small town and see all the cute little shops and the perfect cafe and I find the experience so much more fulfilling than going to a mall, and having a generic box ticking shopping trip. I still haven’t even been to Edmonton *hangs head* 🙂

    1. Don’t get me wrong – the West Edmonton Mall is a sight/attraction/example of gigantism to behold, but I’m with you. Small shops in small towns/cities are more fun. Come to Edmonton – we can go on a coffee/croissant/indie shops tour. Oh and we might see some bison.

  9. Hi there,
    Thanks so much for mentioning Jouer Café! We love that we provide something for both kids and parents. Thanks for checking out the local smaller towns. I love your St. Albert tips too.

  10. A fascinating store in Edmonton is The Wildbird General Store — just north of the Whitemud on 99th Street. (4711 – 99 Street). It has a lot of birding related goods, but also lots of very exquisite handmade crafts.

  11. Great list of small town boutiques and shops. Have lived in Edmonton for 40 years and was not aware of some of these gems! Thanks again!

  12. I looked forward to reading this post and did enjoy the insider info on small town shopping in the north of our great province, but I live in Okotoks, and would very much like to see a possible southern Alberta small town shopping post. Living in Okotoks, I am already aware of the wonderful, unique shopping experiences our town offers but there are a number of other small places around here that I’m sure would make for a wonderful day or weekend of shopping southern Alberta small towns. For example, High River, Black Diamond and Nanton are also great and fun places to shop to enjoy the experience. I’m sure there are more that I’m unaware of, so would love to see a similar post focusing on the south of our province.

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